SOC 321K • Sociology oF Africa
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
This course provides a broad introductory survey to Africa from a sociological perspective. Bridging classical macro and micro-sociological approaches, it has two principal aims: to deepen our understanding of Africa and African societies; and to help enrich sociological thought by incorporating Africa - long ignored - into the sociological canon.
The course is divided into three sections. The first addresses the problem of representation. How do we learn about Africa? How has the tension between Philo-Africans, Africa-romantics and those driven to improve life on the "Dark Continent", affected what we claim to know about Africa? How do Africans themselves feel about Africa? What are "authentic" African cultural forms and behavior?
The second section deals with political structures. By this we refer not only to the formal structure of African states and political authority, but also to constraints on states' ability to project their formal authority. Some of these constraints are internal, related to specific countries' ethnic and geographic characteristics. Others are external, stemming from African states' embeddedness in global or transnational authority structures.
Having identified those constraints, the third section of the course deals with the three key social institutions that, either in addition to the state or in response to its failures, affect life on the ground. These three are: the extended family, religious institutions, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). We will describe the key features and functions of each of these, document how, if at all, they have changed over the last few decades, and think about how they are likely to change in the near future.
Students' final grades will be based on class participation, two in-class exams, and a final paper due by the end of the semester.
Course reading will draw on a variety of sources (academic, popular, fiction).